Howdy! To-daze guest columnist is my ol’ saddlemate from the great Bar WB Ranch—Jack Kelly. In a previous column I recounted the pleasure of working with Clayton Moore and a gaggle of gun-totin’ Gower Gulch galoots back in ‘79 for a TV western reunion. During a mocha java break, Bart Maverick sashayed up to ol’ Sweet Toes for our first pow-wow in many a moon. Jack was duded-up gambler style. I sported dregs from Western Costume’s last gasp.
He ushered me to a corner for a friendly game of backgammon—never play poker with a guy named Doc nor backgammon with a guy who brings his own set. He scummed me two out of three (we only played two). Four months later Jack phoned from his home in Huntington Beach to invite me to a charity rodeo and to read me his latest newspaper column, a tribute to Clayton Moore. Later, he and his daughter Nicole ended up publishing the paper. (Wonder if he won it in a friendly game of backgammon?)
Thanks to super sleuthing by my wife Babs, the Huntington Beach library and Jack’s pal Jerry Person, I give you Kelly’s tribute to Moore.
There is one old actor who will never die, and as sure as Tonto is faithful, has never failed to perform. He’s a great guy named Clayton Moore. He played the Lone Ranger for so many years, the silver bullets have tarnished. He galloped so many cinematic miles on the great steed Silver, he should be enshrined in Hollywood Park. Clayton saved so many sod busters from cattlemen’s wrath, they should have named chicken fried steak after him. He used so many silver bullets as momentos to startled and thankful range families, laid end-to-end they’d stretch from Dodge City to the Chicago stockyards. His courage-provoking salutation, ‘Hi-Yo, Silver, Awayyy!’, is more memorable a rallying cry than ‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!’, ‘Don’t tread on me’, or ‘Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition’.
To get him to discuss his birthdate would be an accomplishment equal to proving Wilt Chamberlain wears elevator shoes, Chrysler Corporation isn’t really stupidly managed or John Wayne was a bad guy! Clayton Moore is so loyal to the Lone Ranger, he wouldn’t go to a restroom at the L.A. Coliseum without wearing his mask. He’s so determined to separate his private life from the outstanding fictional hero of the West, he’d likely be fingered as the masked rapist in a police lineup, and still wouldn’t request Tonto to vouch for his character.
After the Lone Ranger went off the air, Clayton earned a living at state fairs, rodeos and every other conceivable personal appearance where his services were continually requested by eager entrepreneurs. Clayton Moore was once legally ambushed as indelicately as when the ‘dirty little coward’ plugged Mr. Howard, as the infamous Bob Ford squeezed the shot that propelled Jesse James into an orbit of American folk legend. The Wrather Corporation, owners of Lone Ranger rights and trademarks, successfully enjoined Clayton Moore from ever appearing again as the masked crusader. Ain’t it a shame. A man who subverted his own identification to perpetuate his fictional career partner had to hang up mask, six-guns and future as if he were a hopeless mosquito, smashed on the forearm of a jet-setter taking sun in Acapulco? Wrather was rightfully protecting his ability to capitalize on appearances of a new artist portraying the legendary hero. Mr. Wrather should have considered appointing him to a position of value in the new project. He’s been of continual value over the years by keeping Silver’s rider unsullied.”
Jack Kelly died Saturday November 7, 1992. Besides his talent for acting, journalism, golf, crossword puzzles and backgammon, Jack had been elected mayor twice and councilman for 10 years. On Thursday November 13, 1992, a sunken Civic Center amphitheatre in Huntington Beach, CA, served as Jack’s final stage. Standing room only as family, friends and admirers bid Jack the Big Adios. Babs and I were there. Bob ‘Brent Maverick’ Colbert was there. Looked as if the whole town turned out. We sure miss ya, Jack.