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Old July 13th, 2010, 09:45 AM
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Default 1991 Gunfight Auditions

Here's an article about the 1991 auditions for the Texas Gunfight :

Thursday, MARCH 7, 1991
Kathy Jackson
Urban cowboys try to lasso roles in the Six Flags Western shows

Red Mitchell raced down the street and sprinted up the courthouse steps, gunholster bouncing against his thigh. Breathlessly, he yelled a warning to the judge: A bunch of marauding bad guys were coming to town. And they were "slappin' the hair out o' people's noses.' Red Mitchell is a grown-up. He's a family man. A businessman.

But what he really wants to be is a cowboy.

So when word got out that there was an opening for a cowboy in the Western shows at Six Flags Over Texas , Red showed up in full cowpoke regalia: a scarf, an Indian choker made of bones and beads, and pants tucked into black boots that go up past his knees.

Normally, he would have stood out in a crowd. Here, he was just part of the herd.

On this springlike Sunday afternoon, about 25 urban cowboys leaned against hitching posts waiting.

One by one, they were told to stand in front of a video camera and give their names and Social Security numbers. Then they read lines from the first script Mr. Humphrey wrote when he took over the Western shows 13 years ago -- a corny skit about a judge and a dimwit named Leroy. "This script here, I always have them read it because it's real bad,' confides Mr. Humphries, as an applicant readies himself for the audition, lips moving silently as he scans the script. "I want to see what they can do with it.' Alan Bailey did as much with it as he could. He wasn't wearing cowboy clothes, but what he didn't have in props he made up for in volume and gusto. He does a Sunday night show at a Fort Worth bar called Jack London's, singing songs like Get It On, Bang A Gong and Mack the Knife on a Karoake machine. "I remember coming out here and being mesmerized by the cowboys,' Mr. Bailey says. "This could lead to bigger and better things. You always look for that big break no matter where it comes from.' Bryan Beard's also looking for that big break. And a cooler costume.

He works as a White Knight at renaissance fairs, jousting with fellow actors and falling off horses. He heard about the cowboy auditions from his friend, the Black Knight. He figured cowboy gear - would be a lot less stifling in the summer than armor. "This would be kind of a blessing,' he says. "And, who knows?

There might be an agent out here on vacation and I might be discovered. It seems like it's those accidental meetings that get you in the door.' Mr. Humphries looks for men who can play rough guys, yet have a sense of humor because that appeals to kids, he says. Applicants for this job are always a little bit ahead of the game if they know the steps to the Hokey Pokey and have an affinity for rubber chickens. "It's a lot of silliness, a lot of comedy,' says Mr. Humphries, who operates Western show s at five other amusement parks. "There's not that many people who can do it that well. And it becomes pretty evident once they get up there.' Only men need apply for the Western shows. Full-time gunfighter Craig Williams, who helps Mr. Humphries screen applicants, explains the omission of women with this piece of logic: "How come Hooters don't hire guys?' Six Flags is open weekends only beginning Saturday, and opens full time on May 24. Seven gunfights are staged each day, beginning at high noon.

The number of gunfights at Six Flags during any given week may outnumber the real gunfights of yesteryear, says Dr. William Savage, who wrote Cowboy Hero: His Image in American History and Culture. He says gunslinging didn't happen nearly as often as Hollywood would have us think. "Cowboys would cross rivers and not bother to take their guns out of their holsters, so they usually would be corroded,' Dr. Savage says. "Guns were used primarily as noisemakers when you got into town and to kill vermin, like snakes. "They probably slugged it out with one another with the same regularity that they do at Billy Bob's. There was a lot of posturing with very little of consequence coming of it.' The guy who won the job at Six Flags may actually reflec t the more laid-back attitude that Dr. Savage says the real cowboys had.

He didn't bother to dress in cowboy clothes, opting instead to show up in shorts, a T-shirt and pair of round glasses. His name is Chris Ratcliff, he's 23, and he's a student at the University of Texas at Arlington. "I picked him because he was the only one that delivered the bad-guy line different than any of the other guys did,' says Mr. Humphries. "He had a character about him.' The line, in case anybody wants to practice for next year, was: "I come to get a piece of your hide, buzzard gut.'
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